Society

'Amish Mafia' TV Series on Discovery Just 'Trash TV'?

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Move over Vito Corleone, the Amish mafia is out for retribution.

A new Discovery channel television series “Amish Mafia” is set to premiere Dec. 12 and will explore the underground lives of a vigilante Mennonite group seeking eye-for-an-eye justice for crimes against their community members. The series focuses on the leader of this mafia group, Lebanon Levi, a Mennonite who was never baptized and so can remain distanced from the church, and his cohort, who are identified as Alvin, Jolin and John. 

The Amish mafia in the show, which is set in Lancaster, Pa., flaunt their body tattoos, drive cars, use cell phones and, most importantly, shoot guns. The technology these self-identified mafia members use are not approved by their church, which is characterized by the show as “looking the other way.”

“The [Amish] Church denies that the Amish Mafia exists — yet, like any other person in a community who holds power, the Amish know who to go to if there’s a problem,” said Dolores Gavin, the series executive producer, to the New York Post. Gavin is also known for her work producing other reality TV shows such as Discovery’s Sons of Guns and History’s Ice Road Truckers. Gavin claims that it took her two years to gain trusted access to the mafia group.

The show's first episodes include scenes showing the four mafia avengers taking actions against Amish members who violate the codes of the church, such as catching community members in acts of adultery or holding others accountable for vandalism. The Amish rarely seek help from “English” police due to their simple lifestyle, which is where Levi and his partners step in to right the wrongs.

Many scenes, however, are reenacted to protect some Amish people from being featured on camera, which is against the belief system of the Amish church, according to MailOnline.

Due to the show’s reenactments and the values and actions espoused by the “mafia” and other Amish featured on the show, the credibility of the "reality" series is up for debate.

Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College, which is located just 20 miles away from Lancaster, has been studying the Amish for years and told Lancaster Online that he considers the show “trash TV.”

“To call these shows documentaries is a fraudulent lie,” Kraybill said. He explained that some community members, such as Levi, have in fact been charged with crimes by the “English” police, but the existence of an all-powerful, vigilante mafia is likely an exaggeration. 

“I'm not saying Amish are perfect saints and walk on water,” he said. “But this [show] is a twisted portrayal of the Amish community.”